October 18, 2017

Processed Snacks and Desserts: What the Hell, Let's Have Some!

 via flickr

By Crabby McSlacker

Are you one of those people who eats only healthy whole foods, having absolutely no desire to consume tasty and convenient items created in some huge factory somewhere, packaged up and shipped thousands of miles away to your very own neighborhood grocery store?

Well, congratulations!

Enjoy that little cute little plate of fresh cut veggies and hummus. Savor that teeny-tiny handful of raw nuts. Arrange those fresh apple slices into a Pinterest-ready photo broadcasting your virtue.

Me? Sometimes I buy processed stuff in boxes and bags and cartons and resealable pouches.

My meals are generally pretty damn healthy, and there are whole food snacks I'll eat too. (Hello, nuts and fruit and a few select veggies). But if I don't have a few good indulgence foods on hand, things I truly love... then I'll soon end up on the Dark Side of the Snacking Street, on the Wrong Side of the Right Track. You know that neighborhood, right? It's where the nachos and the bakery sheet cakes and pepperoni pizza and the Ben & Jerry's all live.

And try as I might, I just can't love a fucking carrot stick no matter what I dip it into.

Yet so many snacks and desserts that are advertised as "healthy" are no such thing. If I weren't an obsessive nutcase, I might not ever have found my current favorites among all the zillions of faux-healthy offerings crowding the grocery store shelves.

So what do I eat?

(Note: No one is paying me anything or offering me anything free for this post. I'm done with that, having discovered that $7 worth of free snack foods is not worth all the angst and procrastination and misery that comes with actually having to write a review on command. These are just things I like, many of which I've mentioned before).

My Criteria for Healthy Snacks

Everyone's dietary preferences and nutritional issues are different. What may be my perfect snack or dessert may be your nightmare and vice versa.

I favor snacks that are relatively low in sugar. But these may include super-sweet treats that got that way by means of "natural" fake sugars (i.e., stevia, monkfruit, erythritol etc).  I'm currently trying to cut back on the splenda/aspartame/saccharine kind of fake sugar. I'm not totally convinced they're as terrible as people say, but I'm trying to go with the natural ones until some new study comes along saying the natural ones cause eyeball cancer or toxic shock or narcoleplsy or webbed toes or some other nasty problem.  

Anyway I also I like my snacks to contain something besides empty carbs and fats, like fiber or protein or virtuous phytochemicals. And they have to taste good.

And, as unhip as this may sound, I still care about calories.  I like an ample serving size, and can easily eat a day's worth of calories in one quick sitting of, say, trail mix, even the kind with no chocolate in it. If you are not a gluttonous pig like I am this may be less of a concern.

But rather than embark on a scholarly discussion of all the ingredients on the labels and their advantages and disadvantages, how about instead I just put up some shitty camera-phone photos of some of the crap I have around the house that makes me happy?

My current favorite dessert:

Note: they try very hard to persuade you to eat the whole pint. Do I need to tell you that this is not necessary? On the other hand, you sure as hell don't have to stick to the mythical 1/2 cup serving size that ice cream claims to come in. Who eats just a half cup of ice cream??

This is a reliable dessert stand-by too:

The nice thing about this dark chocolate bar is that it's a respectable 72% cocoa, yet does not taste punitively bitter like so many dark chocolates do. The sea salt is lovely too.

Oh, and these cinnamon apple chips are awesome!  Because that's all they are: cinnamon and apples. But they're crunchy and SO much more fun than eating an apple.

The downside: it's easy to eat too many of 'em in a way that it's not so easy to eat too many apples.

These Quest bars are very low in sugar, have a boatload of fiber and protein, and taste (to me) quite delicious. Downside: a little splenda in there with the other more natural sweeteners, but screw it. They have other flavors without the splenda but I don't like 'em as much.

This next fave from TJ's comes in very handy for travel, especially in places where non-cheeseburger protein sources are hard to come by:

And vegetables that kinda/sorta resemble snack chips you'd eat on purpose? WIN!!! The downside is in the process of turning broccoli into something tasty, they use a hefty amount of oil and thus the calorie count is way high.

These kale chips are not quite as oily as the broccoli, and generally very tasty.  But TJ's suppliers seem to vary, sometimes these taste a little off if you get a bad bag. But 90% of the time they're great, and much cheaper than the insanely pricey kind they stock in most natural food stores.

And hey, did you catch the news that popcorn is now good for you? It's loaded with disease-fighting polyphenols. Who knew? But the catch is, plain popcorn sucks and most things you put on it to make it tasty turn it into junk.

But somehow this brand makes a couple of very low cal varieties with just the minimum amount of Stuff In It that WAY BETTER than all the other low calorie popcorn brands. It pisses me off whenever I can't find it on the grocery store shelves because it's been shoved out of the way by the other popcorns, or the store only stocks the high calorie flavors with way more sugar and fat than you need. These are great and if you can eat a TON without feeling too guilty.

Oh, and these are good on salads if you want something crunchy that's not quite as deliciously evil as a buttery crouton:

Are these the only processed foods I eat? Um, well no, there are a couple of completely indefensible items I won't even admit to here, but I eat them sparingly. These are my mainstays.

How about you guys, do you completely avoid packaged processed convenience foods? If not, what are your faves?


  1. I sense a theme here: crunchy. I mostly don't like crunchy. I'd far rather eat my broccoli steamed than crunchy and oily.
    And of course, this is where I get on my healthy whole foods (did you know this site is insisting on capitalizing that??? I had to delete and retype three times) high horse and point out that my portions are never teeny-tiny, or even little. I eat food I like, and lots of it.
    I keep some granola bars around for just such occasions as fasting blood draws at nine in the morning when I usually eat breakfast at six-thirty. Something I can stuff in my mouth the minute the needle is out of my arm that won't mess up my purse.
    Most of the packaged stuff just doesn't taste good to me. If it did, I would eat it as fearlessly as I eat ice cream. Reduced fat, reduced sugar, reduced calorie ice cream does not taste good to me.
    The only thing you have listed up there that I would enjoy eating is the dark chocolate (without the almonds; I never liked almonds). That goes for the popcorn, because I can't stand dead popcorn. If it's not hot out of the pot, why eat it? (I suspect this is the reason for flavored popcorn--which I have tasted, and hate.) I've always popped corn in a little--only a little--oil and salted it lightly and eaten it fresh.
    OK, ending rant now....
    Mary Anne in Kentucky

    1. So funny Mary Anne how you would starve for snacks in my house! But to each her own... I consider myself lucky to have numbed my tastebuds to fake sugars, for the most part the work just as well for me as the real ones.

    2. I agree...Oil poppped popcorn is the way to go! I used to do it on the stove, but then we got one of those glass stop stoves, so now we use one of the hot plate type popcorn poppers; it's not quite as good as stove top, but it's close.

  2. Tortilla chips are a big indulgence though I have them with salsa to make them healthy. I like potato chips, don't have them very often.
    There's an uppity style of coconut bar covered in dark chocolate that's just sweet enough, and properly chewy. I can never remember the name, but I know exactly where it is in the store.

    1. Tortilla chips! Totally irresistible when paired with guacamole. And an uppity chocolate bar? I must investigate leah!

  3. My favourite thing right now is vegan coconut clusters! They are delicious; when I open the bag it smells like buttery toffee and caramel corn, but it's not!

    I tried some processed vegan "meat", and it was good, but will be a treat food as it is filled with soy and chemicals. Two of my least favourite things to eat!

    Vegan dark chocolate every single day is necessary for me. Two squares and I am thrilled.

    Yes, I have become that person who writes vegan in front of everything I eat! And I love it!!!

    1. The veganism impressive Kimberley but even more impressive is the 2 square a day allotment! I couldn't restrict myself to 2 squares of chocolate unless I measured them with a yardstick...

  4. Well as you know I love my REAL weekend cookies! And I have bagged animal cookies as a treat during the week - portion control & decent stats. I like my Quest bars too in small pieces cause I can't handle any of the sugar alcohols including erythritol. I am about balance. Yes, I eat pretty dang clean but I am not going to be perfect & I don't want to be! :)

    1. Love those pictures of you and your cookies Jody! If I could restrict myself to once a week maybe I'd eat the real thing too!

  5. Yeah. I'm a junk food junkie. Sugar and chocolate mostly. But tortilla chips (with homemade black bean salsa - balance!) and movie popcorn are also staples in my life. :)

    I'll vouch for all the Endangered Species chocolate. I'm not a fan of almonds, so my favorites are the dark chocolate with peppermint or dark chocolate with hazelnut toffee. I'm also a sucker for Bark Thins, but I have to make sure to hide those from myself or I inhale the bag.

    I try to maintain some balance and admit I do better some days than others. This middle aged $#!& is requiring more and more limitations and it's currently pissing me off to the nth.

    1. Bark thins, bdaiss, omg... those are just too tasty for me to have in the house. And yeah, this whole middle aged thing and the metabolism slow down... IT SUCKS!

  6. The TJ's kale chips are a favorite, and i'm going to try that popcorn soon.

    1. Yay messymimi, glad I'm not the only fan of the kale chips!

  7. "punitively bitter" is the best description that I've ever heard! You nailed dark chocolate. I like Dove dark chocolate promises and can get by with only having a couple of them for dessert (instead of milk chocolate, which I can just keep eating and eating and eating...), but most other dark chocolates, I can't stand. I'll have to give this bar a taste test soon!

    I keep forgetting to try Angie's popcorn. I do like popcorn and feel like it's a good option when I'm feeling especially voluminous snackish. Can't do sugar alcohols - that Quest bar killed my stomach when I tried it. And I haven't tried Halo Top yet, but I'm more of a froyo person anyway. Wish we had a TJ's in town as I'd love to give all of their goodies a taste test!

    1. Sorry about the sugar alcohols Shelley. They use the one that's supposed to not by a problem, but I'm with you, with all the fiber in Quest I have to go a little easy on 'em.

      I wish TJ's would get it together to do mail order on their non perishables! We don't live very near one so have to buy in vast quantity when we do run across one. Hope one comes to your town some day.

  8. Hi Crabby!
    I'm a paid spokesman for Dickmann's, but only the Super kind, of course! My hands are really big, too! If I play my cards right, I might get in their TV ads!

    All bluster aside, since I'm in ice cream heaven, Western Mass, ice cream is my vice. It's so rich that I can eat a couple spoonfuls each time, making a pint of ice cream last for almost a week. I do binge, though, when I go out for ice cream.

    That photo reminded me of one of my favorite websites: http://www.engrish.com/2013/09/im-bubble-tea/

    Cheers! Dave

    1. Seriously Dave, a COUPLE OF SPOONFULS OF ICE CREAM???!!!???

      How is that even possible? Even without your Super massive, um, hands, you are clearly superhuman.

      And thanks for the bubble tea link, I hadn't seen that!

  9. We go through a lot of tortilla chips. We like organic blue corn tortilla chips with salsa. Sweet potato tortilla chips are great with salsa. Tortilla chips are also good on the side when we have chili or black bean soup. I love potato chips, but try not to have them very often. Love dark chocolate with sea salt!

    I confess, we buy boxes of single serve almond packages at Costco. I feel a bit bad about all the packaging, and it's probably not the most cost effective way to buy, but I can grab them on the way out of the house, so it's worth it to me.

    I made Kale chips once. It was a lot of work, and then I proceeded to eat the whole lot standing at the stove. Bought kale chips once and they were yucky. We don't have Trader Joe's though.

    1. I meant to say sweet potato chips are great with hummus, though they are sill great with salsa. :)

    2. Sorry for the late reply JavaChick, but I think you are forgiven the extra packaging involved in single serving almonds given their addictive quality. And my kale chips are always soggy, but I agree, most of the kind you buy in a store are gross, I just like the TJ kind.

  10. Halo Top is good stuff! I like the chocolate peanut butter. It is harder than regular ice cream so if you don't let it soften, it takes a lot longer to eat it! The Endangered Species chocolate is good too; I like the 88% dark.

    1. Yes, good point Lyn, it also takes a little softening for the flavor of the Halo stuff to come out, tastes too bland when it's really hard. But worth the wait! My new fave is cookie dough. Yumm!

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  12. nice article n thanks for yr sharing

  13. my favorites are the dark chocolate with peppermint or dark chocolate with hazelnut toffee. I'm also a sucker for Bark Thins, but I have to make sure to hide those from myself or I inhale the bag.


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